You can’t blame McCain because “it’s kind of like running against God.” – MSNBC

“I want to stipulate at the beginning of this interview, we are declaring a ‘Rev. Wright free zone’ today – so, no questions about Rev. Wright.” (internal applause) – John Roberts, CNN

I recently had a conversation with a friend whose opinion I value and trust. When I told him nobody had bothered to pick up any of the nearly a dozen bush_golfingstories now out there about Obama’s science czar, he told me, “Don’t tell me you’re one of those people who believes there’s a vast (media) conspiracy.” I explained that it’s not a conspiracy– as NYT’s Walter Cronkite obit confirms, it’s too much to ask even to get an editor to communicate with his writer to correct 9 errors, much less a top-down coordination of all mainstream outlets. No, instead, I simply point to a disparity in media coverage. Whenever I get the rhetorical, “you’re not one of those, are you?” question, my response is basically, let’s look at the evidence. Is there anything, even anecdotal, to suggest parity in the treatment of liberals and conservatives in the mainstream media?

Here’s a few examples that spring to mind.

1) President Obama played full rounds of golf at least 11 times in his first 6 months in office, and once it warmed up he really went into overdrive, playing on April 26, May 16, May 25, May 31, June 7, June 9, June 14, and June 21.

How did the media take this? After the June 7 outing, WaPo ran a story called “Just the Sport for a Leader Most Driven.” What a hilarious pun.

“What’s the deal? Why golf?” Post staff writer Richard Leiby wrote. “The attraction seems to be simple. It’s a great escape; the game demands such attention that nothing else matters. It’s time spent with friends, an unhurried afternoon in loose clothing (shorts seem to be Obama’s preference).”

“To some, Obama’s frequent outings reflect a cool self-confidence.”

Leiby even quoted a sports psychologist who admired Obama’s ability to play golf in the face of such grim news around the world.

In 2002, Mike Allen (of the same publication) ran a story including the Bush quote, “Now watch this drive,” later made infamous by Michael Moore’s Farenheit 9/11 (2003). W was lambasted by the press for golfing about half as often as Obama, and ultimately gave up playing regularly on August 19, 2003, when he had to take a call on the course from Condoleezza Rice telling him their top UN man in Iraq had been killed.

“I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf,” Bush said in an interview with Politico and Yahoo News on May 13, 2008. “I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”

“I was playing golf–I think I was in central Texas–and they pulled me off the golf course and I said, ‘It’s just not worth it anymore to do.’”

WaPo once again hammered Bush, quoting Presidential historian Robert Dallek, who said Bush’s decision “speaks to his shallowness.”

Damned if he did and damned if he didn’t: “That’s his idea of sacrifice, to give up golf?” Dallek retorted.

Bush Senior was also reported as being indifferent and callous to troops being deployed to the Gulf when he hit the links in Kennebunkport, ME.

So, to recap, Obama playing golf during wartime, and what is by his own calculation the worst economy since the Great Depression, is a “simple escape” and reflects a “cool self-confidence,” while Bush playing golf during war time (and intermittently during one of the shortest recessions on record), reflects his “shallowness” and is, in the words of stand-up comedian Keith Olbermann, “unforgivable.” The war in Iraq is “not about you and your damned golf game,” Olbermann intoned in his best Foghorn Leghorn impression. Not a conspiracy, just a disparity.

Meanwhile, Bush visited with about 550 military families in private, placing top staffers at their disposal after they’d lost loved ones. The most famous instance was the Krisoff family, who spent nearly an hour with the President before Karl Rove personally had an age requirement waived so that Mr. Krissoff would be able to serve in Iraq as a Navy medic in honor of his dead son. President Obama has met, as far as his published schedule shows, with 0 military families off camera.

2) Here’s the lede of the New York Times‘ obituary for Robert Novak:

“Robert D. Novak, the pugnacious political columnist and cable television fixture whose scoops reached across five decades and whose nickname, ‘the prince of darkness,’ was invoked with renewed fervor in 2003 when, acting on a tip, he revealed the name of a CIA officer, setting the stage for a criminal investigation, died Tuesday morning at his home in northwest Washington. He was 78.”

The run-on sentence, I assume, was accomodated so as to be able to jam the Plame affair into the first sentence of the story. This would be like George Stephanopoulos dying and running an obituary that read, “George Stephanopoulos, the failed first press flak for President Clinton, was found dead in his home at 78.”

3) Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin topped the charts for a whopping 12 weeks this year, then spent six weeks at number 2. It’s on track to sell a million copies, rare for political books, as nonfiction sells slower than fiction. That makes it the hottest nonfiction book of the year, and has spent more time at the top of the charts than any book in years. But Levin has never been invited to talk about it by CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, or CNN. Despite the fact that the NYT has had it on its top 10 bestseller list for 21 weeks, it has not reviewed it – nor has USA Today, The Washington Post, The LA Times, The Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune…you get the point. The Philadelphia Inquirer didn’t review it either, but ran a small piece in the back of the A section on the book’s success, as Levin went to school in Manayunk.

By contrast, Elizabeth Edwards’ Resilience, which supplanted Levin for just one week before plummeting down the charts and doing about 20% of her last book’s sales, enjoyed reviews from the Tribune, EW, The LA Times, USA Today, etc. She also appeard on Today, The View, and several other network news and entertainment programs.

Someone who suggests this is evidence of bias might elicit a reaction like the one David Frum gave Levin when he called into his radio show to let him know he sounded “like someone who is walking up Broadway and shouting at passing cars.”

Michelle Malkin’s Culture of Corruption is now in its fourth week of release and has topped the list all four weeks. Not holding my breath on reviews.

4) In case you’ve forgotten one of the most undisputable facts of our generation, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wants to remind you that George W. Bush is a retard:

…Each of the past five presidents — including southern Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — also welcomed NASCAR champions to the White House. But here was an African-American Democrat from Chicago, which as NASCAR hotbeds go, is not exactly Talladega, checking out Mr. Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet.

Mr. Obama is a confessed ESPN junkie, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he knew a little about NASCAR. Still, he used the word “spiffy” to describe Mr. Johnson’s car. It was disconcerting, like watching George W. Bush play chess.

5) Buried in a religion story on page B-2 of the Washington Post on Saturday (the least-read day of the week) was the surprising claim that Gallup’s May Q poll measured 51% of respondents self-identifying as pro-life versus 42% self-identifying as pro-choice, for the first time in the history of legal abortion. This, it would seem to me, is not a Metro but front page news. It also does not belong as a “blog” story on religion, as no corresponding increase in religiosity has been measured, but instead a decrease. If anything it would be a youth story, as they are consistently polling as more pr0-life. The blurb measured a scant 1.25 inches in height. No other major publication has run the results.

6) People started getting more concerned about the text of the health care bill when they discovered it included incentives for the elderly to discuss a living will with their doctor instead of, oh, I don’t know, a lawyer. Chris Matthews’ explanation for the protesters? Besides that they’re part of an Astroturf campaign (it’s impossible people could like their current health care, despite the 70% who say they do in polling), he had this gem to share:

“Are you telling me that these guys were created by this new president? That the people we’re watching on television with their guns and their attitudes about the republic weren’t around before January 20th?! … Okay I think, I think some of the people are upset because we have a black president.” (FLASHBACK: “What more do you want before you vote for a black guy, America? Huh? What more do you want?”)

Matthews offered no shred of evidence that the protesters, who include African Americans, were part of the minority of voters who admitted to voting against Obama because of his color.

In fact, here is MSNBC again. Contessa Brewer, who delivers dayside news, is by all means not a commentator and has no demonstrable political stake, but had this to say when reporting on the health care protests: “There are questions as to whether this has racial overtones to it. I mean, here you have a man of color in the Presidency and white people showing up with guns strapped to their waists or to their legs.”

The African American brought in to analyze this adds: “It sounds simplistic when you put it that way.” (Snort) “But it is real, that there is tremendous anger in this country about government, about the way government seems to be taking over the country. Anger about a black person being president, just several upheavals in the country over the last ten years since– from 9/11 to the economic tsunami, to the black man becoming president. You know, we see these hate groups rising up, and this is definitely part of that.”

Did you catch that? For all the whiteys out there, Obama’s election is the new 9/11.

“I’m not going to be surprised if we see somebody get a chance and take a chance to really try to hurt him. You know, and I mean, it’s up to the secret service to make sure that it doesn’t actually become history.”

Their example of white men with guns strapped to their legs? This black man with a gun:

rifle

Of course, they didn’t air the raw photo. They went with an ultra-cropped version that obscured the man’s race.

I’m actually not blaming Brewer for this, because if you’ll check out this hilarious clip, you’ll see she’s a major pro. But she still believes the crazy-tenuous idea that health care protesters are racist, without a shred of evidence. I’ll give her her the benefit of the doubt and assume she didn’t look at the B-roll, but someone still cut the raw footage to shreds in an effort to match the prompter script. Commentary and opinion journalism are fine, but this is willful doctoring of facts.

Even alleged Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker got on the racial bandwagon. A long-time Palin basher, Parker explained that the problem was stupid Southerners, despite significant protests in New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, etc.

“One word, Chris — one word. ‘Confederacy.’ I mean, you know, the South is very — I live there, OK? I want to make that clear, too, because I’m not bashing Southerners,” Parker said.

In her recent column she wrote: “Sarah Palin may not have realized what she was doing, but Southerners weaned on Harper Lee heard the dog whistle.”

First of all, does Palin shrewdly and willfully play on racial fear and male lust or is she too ignorant and tone deaf to even understand her own allure? We have to pick one here. Today, Parker is going with the latter.

“You don’t position a white woman and a black male and pretend like there’s nothing happening there. There’s a deep history. That’s why I mentioned Harper Lee in there.”

Gov. David Paterson, not one to miss a racial greivance party, announced that racism was of course the cause of his own political pickle, suggesting people get “nervous” when they see “too many highly successful minorities.” He then added, “The next victim on the list — and you see it coming — is President Barack Obama, who did nothing more than try to reform a health-care system . . . only because he’s trying to make change.” He’s using the word “change,” but nobody is swooning! Racism! (Paterson is currently 20 Points behind Andrew Cuomo in a hypothetical match-up…among Black voters).

So, to recap, Palin’s “death panels” comment, which came way after the start of unrest at town halls, was a “dog whistle” heard only by Southern racists who have flooded these meetings to protest HR 3200 because Obama is black? Yeah, I guess that’s the most plausible argument.

7) Speaking of the secret service’s duty to protect the President, they’re doing an especially good job for Barack Obama.

After a protester in Maryland held up a “death to Obama” sign on 8/12, he was detained by the Secret Service for questioning. The woman who hung Obama in effigy on Halloween last year got aggressive media coverage and then also received a visit from the men with the earpieces.

After just 7 months in office, searching for Obama death threats on Nexis among major publications provides 520 hits, versus 999 for Bush in 8 years. Threats on Obama’s life are on track to be reported 6,000-7,000 times over his Presidency. Some of this is undoubtedly due to an increase in reported death threats for Obama, which did rise 400%. In a logical circle though, much of this increase is due to Secret Service obtaining information through the media. Even if we treat the 400% number as a raw increase in threats, however, we still see nearly double the amount of coverage. It’s not a conspiracy, just a disparity.

While the media has exhaustively covered real and imagined threats on Obama’s life, it often did not do the same for President Bush. While a single Maryland man at a rally has now consituted the “fringe right” and gone through Secret Service questioning (as he well should), scads of would-be Bush killers were never covered and never questioned. While Bush of course saw many threateners investigated, no one at a protest was ever investigated or reported upon. Here’s a collection of the un-newsorthy:

But the best uninvestigated Bush death threat would have to be from no less than John Kerry. He told Bill Maher that he took his wife on a trip to Vermont for their anniversary, and Maher asked why he didn’t got to New Hampshire and “kill two birds with one stone.” Kerry’s response? “Or I could have gone to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and killed the real bird with a stone.” Huh? Probably misspeech, but still snort-worthy.

8 ) Man with “Abort Obama” sign has his stuff confiscated and is questioned by Oklahoma City police, which makes news on CNN and the networks. “Abort Sarah Palin” bumper stickers and “Abort Palin” graffiti in Seattle elicity no media response.

9) Polling is often manipulated or partially reported. When the NYT and CBS jointly commissioned a poll on health care, they reported that 72% of respondents supported creating a “government-sponsored health insurance company to compete alongside private insurers.” They then ran a front-page above-the-fold story titled “In Poll, Wide Support For Government Run Health” based on the results. Forget the gaping chasm between the wording of the question and the implications of the phrase “government run health.”

Just one problem. When I read the full report from the commissioned pollster, buried in the methodology was the tiny caveat that 48% of respondents voted for Obama, versus 25% who voted for McCain. That would translate into a 66-34 win for Obama had those numbers been the votes in the 2008 election.

When I asked Kellyanne Conway, president of thepollingcompany, whether the poll was representative, she said, “Was the vote 66-34? You tell me.” Conway, the winner of the 2004 Crystal Ball Award for predicting the outcome of the Kerry-Bush election within 0.1%, called the poll “a conclusion in search of evidence.”

Even within the Obamaniac-skewing poll, a much more modest 51% said the system needed fundamental changes versus 52% in January 1994, when a health care overhaul was roundly defeated. When the question becomes whether the system needs to be completely rebuilt, 34 percent say yes in the NYT/CBS poll, versus 38 percent in 1994. And 77% say they’re at least somewhat satisfied with their current coverage. But these numbers did not appear. “We’re exactly where we were in 1994,” Conway told me.

The inflated 72% number that made the headline, according to her, was a result of weighting. “Their original result was more in line (with other non-partisan polling for party identification) but they weighted those numbers,” she said.

To get the other side of the story, I spoke to Janet Elder, editor for news surveys and election analysis at NYT, who said they don’t weigh their results for party identification, instead taking a random sample and then adjusting it to census information.

I called Scott Rasmussen, who was hesitant to make much of a statement on the record, but said he had “no idea what their weighting process was.”

After calling Conway back, she told me, “Look, I understand how they justify this stuff in their own news room.”

When I asked her more specifically about the paltry Conservative representation, she said, “Show me the other polls that are that low. If you look at the way Scott (Rasmussen) reports things, they’re very different from The New York Times. The Census is taken every 10 years, so what are they looking at? The 2000 Census?”

“Almost nobody ever takes them to task for this, because they are CBS and the New York Times,” Conway added. “It is true that more Americans are identifying themselves as Independents, but everyone is doing polling; no one (else) is getting these numbers,” Conway said.

Last week, a Gallup poll found that the majority of people in all 50 states now identify themselves as conservatives, with the smallest majorities in traditionally liberal Massachusetts and Hawaii.

“Americans overwhelmingly support substantial changes to the health care system,” the Times article began, “and (they) are strongly behind one of the most contentious proposals Congress is considering, a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers.”

When I asked Conway more recently about the health care debate, she said Americans like words like “change” and “reform,” but “they then discover you can’t define those.” When faced with their own coverage changing, “They discover their reform is not someone else’s reform.

Rasmussen agreed. “CBS, like everybody else, found that most people are satisfied with their health-care coverage,” he said. “But they have qualms about the overall system. And that is the biggest single obstacle to reform: people do not want to change their own coverage.”

This poll was cited as evidence of American support byy Jacob Hacker  architect of the public option, in multiple pieces of Congressional testimony considered in drafting HR 3200, as well as cited by several Members.

10) ABC also recently showed an uncanny ability to find the bright side of any polly. Forced to report on the 29-point drop in approval of a public option that Obama has suffered, Kate Snow finished her package with this:

It’s not all bad news for the President. We didn’t find an overwhelming majority against health care reform. Instead, if you look at the glass half full point of view, the country is basically split. About half of Americans still favor reform, and about half still favor a public option.

That’s her assessment of the 45-50 approve/disapprove of the public option midway through its cratering in polls.

11a) Finally, there’s the “What? I Must Have Missed That” stance often taken by the media. The other day, Today’s Matt Lauer covered Ted Kennedy’s call for a change in the law so that the Governor could replace him quickly. Their supposed hard news anchor Ann Curry lauded Kennedy for thinking about the future of his country and Massachusetts when he has “so much else on his mind.”

They must have missed the part where this is a political calculation upon which health care reform and other issues could hinge. Kennedy’s letter is a reversal of the change John Kerry requested, which kept Republican Governmor Mitt Romney from appointing a Republican replacement for him had he won the presidency. It might be unprincipled, but it’s damn poignant.

11b) Here’s WaPo quoting Obama at his speech before the American Medical Association:

In his speech, Obama said, “Let me also address an illegitimate concern that’s being put forward by those who are claiming that a public option is somehow a Trojan horse for a single-payer system. . . . When you hear the naysayers claim that I’m trying to bring about government-run health care, know this: They’re not telling the truth.”

What’s in the ellipsis? Obama says, “I’ll be honest; there are countries where a single-payer system works pretty well.”

What? They must have missed that. The NY and LA Times similarly cut the quote. The best part is, after we researched this, the Daily Kos of all site became outraged by the media’s failure to plug single payer, and gave us “kudos.”

This is jut the things that come to the top of my head and represent just a month or so of news. So, what should the depth and breadth of my suspension of disbelief be, exactly?

Why is a beef with FOX News so mainstream and a beef with anyone else just the ravings of a lunatic? When faced with these claims, as Contessa Brewer once said herself, cut the mic:

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